Drugs in the Workplace
Members of the Workforce Investment Board (WIB) Southwest Region presented information to area business owners and industry leaders on the danger of drugs in the workplace at the regular meeting on Aug. 22 in Monett.
The presentation, originally scheduled to be delivered by Sgt. Jason Pace of the Missouri State Highway Patrol, was instead delivered by Bubba Evansco, outreach and recruitment coordinator with WIB. He discussed various illegal substances that could cause havoc in the workplace. Pace and other Highway Patrol resources were reallocated to an ongoing investigation in Golden City.
Synthetic cannabinoid substances, originally invented by John William Huffman at Clemson University. As a researcher, Williams was interested in researching the effects of cannabinoid compounds in brain receptors of those with multiple sclerosis, AIDS and those undergoing chemotherapy.
"As usually happens, these things leak out and the next thing you know, people are selling them," said Evansco. "The thing is, there is no set formula for this stuff. People are using this stuff and we have no idea what it can do to their bodies."
One of the popular synthetics, K2, includes those research chemicals dissolved in acetone and sprayed on dried plant material.
"Some of this stuff even looks like potpourri," Evansco said. "It's marketed as incense and the packages are labeled 'not for human consumption.' So the first thing people do is load it into a pipe and smoke it."
Some adverse effects include irregular heartbeat, elevated blood pressure, hallucinations, tremors, seizures, numbness and tingling, vomiting, agitation, anxiety and paleness.
"There is no regulation on this stuff," Evansco said. "There is no list of ingredients, and the stuff they use to make this, you wouldn't want to put in your body anyway."
Symptoms from synthetic marijuana are very similar to the natural substance. Those include red eyes and elevated blood pressure.
"Typically, synthetic drugs are not detectable on a normal urine analysis (UA) test," Evansco said.
Bath salts are another synthetic substance that act as stimulants similar to ecstasy, cocaine and meth.
"Some of these include fertilizer," Evansco said. "There's the risk of easy overdose, hallucinations and death."
The drug often causes paranoid delusions and hallucinations.
"It's expensive, long-lasting and very addictive," Evansco said. "Again, these substances are not detectable by a typical UA and as a relatively new drug, there is no long-term study of the effects on the human body."
He said many manufacturers of these substances market them in pills shaped like cartoon characters to appeal to younger children.
"These drugs are easily attainable over the Internet," Evansco said. "They are cheap to make, expensive to buy and the ingredients are unknown."
The effects of bath salts last about four hours and symptoms can include intense paranoia, agitation, delusions, hallucinations, violent behavior, aggression, superhuman strength and a diminished sense of pain.
"This drug is known to be fatal," Evansco said. "The body can become overly sensitive to its own adrenaline, which in turn, can cause irregular heart rhythms. People using this drug can demonstrate rapid mood changes -- from cooperative to combative -- in the blink of an eye."
As the recruitment coordinator, Evansco said he has sometimes experienced clients coming into his office while under the influence of drugs.
"Unfortunately, most of the time, the only way you know for sure is if the person admits it," he said. "there is no specific medical treatment for bath salts. Many time, doctors are unable to revive their patients."
The use of synthetic drugs has exploded across the nation since 2010.
"In 2009, the United States Poison Control Center reported no calls concerning bath salts," Evansco said. "Between January and May of 2011, a total of 2,237 bath salts-related calls came in from 47 states. They weren't the good calls, either."
Since 2011, synthetic cannabinoids are illegal in Missouri.
"All I can say is keep your eyes open," Evansco said. "These people are representing your companies and they could become a liability."
He urged business and industry leaders to call local law enforcement agencies if employees demonstrate signs of using synthetic drugs.
For more information on synthetic cannabinoids, visit www.mshp.dps.missouri.gov.